“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them” (Luke 2:6, 7)
On black tablecloths place a manger scene in the center of each table as a centerpiece. Place an empty stable from a larger nativity on the head table. This will be used to re-create the Christmas story. Put the figurines and a battery–operated tea light candle aside for use during the program.
Serve Christmas cookies, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
The Nativity Scene
The leader of the program will share the story of the birth of Christ using pieces of a nativity set.
Suggested Leaders Dialog
The nativity scene brings together each piece of this story into one perfect visual proclamation of the birth of Christ. Each year families bring their nativity scene out of storage and put it in a place of honor to remind them that as Christians we have a wonderful story to tell. It is the story of divine love, mercy and grace. Today as we tell the story of Jesus, I want to encourage you to embrace anew the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.
Sing: “Joy to the World,” The Salvation Army Song Book, #113
(Place the figures of Mary and Joseph in the crèche.)
Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married when their world was suddenly turned upside down. It began when Mary encountered a divine visitor. The angel Gabriel gave Mary a very disturbing and unexpected message. She was pregnant and would give birth to a son—God’s own Son. Joseph was not left out from this celestial communication. He experienced his own encounter with the divine. As you might imagine, Joseph was not pleased to find out that his fiancé was pregnant. His encounter with an angel in a dream, however, changed his mind and he embraced his part in God’s plan to send His Son to be Emmanuel—God with us.
Sing: “Emmanuel,” Hallelujah Choruses, #72 (HC6-T12)
(Turn on the tea light candle and place it in the crèche.)
The next events can be found in Luke 2:1–5. (Read this portion of scripture.) The city of Bethlehem was bustling and crowded when Joseph and Mary arrived. People from all over had made their way to their ancestral home to be counted in the census. By the time Mary reached Bethlehem she was in active labor. Can you picture Joseph frantically searching for a warm and safe place for Mary to give birth, only to find that there were no rooms available? At the city’s edge, an innkeeper offered them shelter in his stable.
(Place the animal figurines in the crèche.)
It was crowded with the animals belonging to the pilgrims who were residing at the inn. It was not the perfect place to give birth but imperfection faded away into sheer pleasure as Mary held the Christ child in her arms.
Sing: “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” The Salvation Army Song Book, #118
Place the figurine of Jesus in the manger in the stable scene. (Read Luke 2:6,7)
Mary placed Jesus, wrapped in strips of cloth, in what is thought to be an animal feed trough. In that sacred moment the world was changed forever. Leap forward in time 33 years: Jesus’ crucified body would be wrapped in cloth and placed in a borrowed grave. Again the world was changed forever. The manger and the cross—one was an imperfect place for a birth and one was an imperfect place for death. Both, however, were part of God’s plan to redeem creation and reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:15–20).
Sing: “I Love to Hear the Story,” The Salvation Army Song Book, Song #142
Place the shepherd and angel figurines in the crèche.
The rest of the events of the Christmas story can be found in Luke 2:8–19. (Read this portion.)
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is found in verse 19: “But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Do you find yourself reminiscing about days gone by? Especially during the Christmas season, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up in memories of home. If our parents are still living, we feel a certain call to make our way home for Christmas. There’s nothing quite like waking up on Christmas morning surrounded by family and friends. If your parents have passed, the haunting lyrics, “I’ll be home for Christmas … if only in my dreams,” causes you to stop and reflect upon memories of happy times spent together.
Sometimes officers jokingly say, “Home is where The Army sends us!” I think a better sentiment would be, “Home is where the heart is.” Joseph and Mary found themselves in a very precarious predicament when they entered the town of Bethlehem so many years ago. They had fled the town of Nazareth under a blanket of gossip and judgement and now Mary was about to give birth with no home to call her own.
However, God always has a plan. His plan included (reference each figurine of the crèche as you mention it) a stable and an angel. It included animals and shepherds on a hillside; it involved a man and a woman; and God’s plan included Himself becoming flesh and blood and entering our world. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one–of–a–kind glory, like Father, like Son” (John 1:14, The Message).
Do you ever feel like you don’t have a home? Maybe you find yourself truly homeless—no home to call your own—or maybe you find yourself figuratively in the uncomfortable spot of not feeling at home no matter where you are. Take comfort in the story we just retold.
It is when we are most vulnerable, most confused, most out–of–place and mixed up, that God intervenes. There are times in our lives when our circumstances are not perfect. But it is in and through these circumstances that the Christ–child shines forth His light and pierces the darkness.
Sing: “In the Manger,” (Hallelujah Chorus #120 (HCD10–T10)
Close with prayer